I was initially on board with Sunflower, a new comic murder mystery series written and co-directed by Vikas Bahl. By the fifth episode, though, my face was in my palm.
This is a show so obsessed with sight gags, squeaks and squeals, that it ceases to amuse after a point. There hasn’t been an Indian web show so epically nuts.
The plot is workable enough: a reverse whodunit set in a Mumbai co-operative housing society. Vikas (producer on the 2013 mystery thriller Ugly) pays a direct tribute at the start: actor Girish Kulkarni, the memorable Marathi cop from Anurag Kashyap’s film, dons a version of that character.
But where everyone was a suspect in Ugly, the fun in Sunflower on paper, at least comes from watching the wrong guy take the fall. The main suspect, played by Sunil Grover, is Sonu, a bachelor living alone in Sunflower society. But there are also others who draw the eye: the victim’s neighbours, his ex-wife, even the Chinese delivery boy who brought his food.
Some of the characters are fun to track. Sonu, for instance, has a meticulous morning ritual: he steps outside his flat, peers through his own door hole, fixes the mat, scans the opposite apartment and takes the lift.
Though he’s been getting dramatic roles for a while, this is Sunil’s first-ever series outing as lead. He lends a sly, slimy quality to Sonu, and seems attuned to the character’s innate weirdness.
But the show plays it safe, giving him scene after scene of mirthless slapstick. In one, he’s chased around by a cab driver; in another, he loses his pants in a loo.
It’s Comedy Nights all over again — minus the comedy. Queen, Vikas’s second feature, boasted some of the funniest Hindi film lines ever written. Sunflower sinks its head in comparison.
The English insult-” think the sun shines out of your arse” — is thoughtlessly translated to Hindi and played. And at a pub, Sonu’s date rubs cocaine in his mouth and says: “This isn’t paste. It’s entertainment.” Go, liar.
Cast: Sunil Grover, Ranvir Shorey, Girish Kulkarni, Mukul Chadda, Dayana Erappa, Ashish Vidyarthi
Streaming on: ZEE5